Ron Wayne's documents up for sale

December 1st, 2014 1:23 PM
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When I left my position as an editor at Computerworld two years ago, I suggested that their Apple II coverage would be no more. That was an exaggeration, of course — while I did contribute offbeat articles interviewing KansasFest attendees and reviewing Apple biopics, the day-to-day coverage of mainstream events in the retrocomputing world were Gregg Keizer's bailiwick, with frequent reports of Apple history hitting the auction block.

And so it's Keizer who put the Apple-1 back on the Computerworld.com homepage last month with news that Apple co-founder and Adventures of an Apple Founder author Ron Wayne's historical documents are up for sale. "It includes original working proofs of the Apple-1 manual, Wayne's original company logo — perhaps the oldest in existence," reports Keizer, "and design renderings of a proposed Apple II case." A phone interview with Steve Wozniak adds some perspective on the widespread interest in Apple's early history.

Wayne's lot is listed at Christie's and is estimated to sell for $30,000 – $50,000 USD. If you want a closer look at the goods in advance of the December 11 auction, Engadget posted over five dozen images of Wayne's library three years ago.

Ron Wayne's prints

Image courtesy Engadget

I'm hopeful Wayne, the perennial down-on-his-luck example of a missed opportunity, will see some profit from this sale. It's a wonder neither of the Apple co-founders shared their fortunes with their former partner — whether because he warrants or deserves it (would Apple exist without him?), or just out of pity.

UPDATE (13-Dec-14): Ron Wayne's lot sold for $25,000.

(Hat tip to Darrell Etherington and Robert McMillan)

Sold at Christie's: Apple-1 #82 for $213K

November 25th, 2010 11:00 AM
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Last week, I belatedly reported that Christie's auction house would be selling an Apple-1 on Nov. 23. On that date, by the time I remembered what day it was, the lot had already sold and Christie's had closed. I was at work at Computerworld and mentioned the occasion to the news chief, who suggested I write about it, as the reporter responsible for Computerworld's auction's pre-event coverage was on holiday. I was already planning on blogging about it for this site but didn't have any details about where the computer had gone, so I questioned the potential for my article to be newsworthy.

But thanks to a blog comment by Eric Rucker, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at KansasFest 2010, I was able to take the story in the opposite direction by examining where this particular Apple-1 had come from. A quick trip to IRC, and I had the retrocomputing expert on the line, helping me get my facts straight.

The resulting article, which got some love on Google News, is now posted on Computerworld.com:

Christie's auction house in London today sold an Apple-1 computer for £133,250, or $213,600.

The lot, which went up for auction at 9:30 a.m. ET today, had an estimated value of between $160,300 and $240,450.

Two hundred Apple-1 computers are estimated to have been created and sold for $666.66 before Apple Computer Inc. was founded in 1977. Once the Apple II, the company's first official product, was released, many of the Apple-1 models were reclaimed as trade-ins. Only about 50 are still known to exist, many of them indexed by hardware developer Mike Willegal.

Read the rest of this story at Computerworld.com »

FS: Apple-1, via Christie's of London

November 15th, 2010 10:20 AM
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Filed under Hacks & mods, Happenings;
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It's not often that retrocomputing news spreads quickly, but by the time I write this blog, it's already old news: on Nov. 23, Christie's auction house in London will auction an Apple-1 computer. The estimated value is $160,300–$240,450.

I first heard the news via Sean Fahey's Twitter, which linked to the Daily Mail Reporter's story. I figured the number of people who even knew what an Apple-1 was would end the story there — but within 24 hours, it was making homepage headlines on everything from Computerworld to CNN. A Google News search shows nearly 300 news stories covering the story.

All this attention is a bit mystifying, as although only a quarter of the original 200 Apple-1 units are known to exist, their appearance on the auction lot is not that unusual. There was one on eBay just two months ago, which sold for just under $23K. That one came with a caveat: "I have not applied electricity to the motherboard in well over ten years, and do not intend to for this auction. Thus, you should assume this is an auction for a museum quality historical artifact, not a working computer." Similarly, the Christie's lot does not describe their unit's working state. Why theirs is going for so much, other than the prestige of the Christie's name, I cannot discern.

Some of the marvel being heaped upon this ancient technology is also both baffling and irritating. "Song storage capacity: Zero", indicates the Daily Mail Reporter; "Its minuscule amount of memory — eight kilobytes — wouldn't even be enough to store a single iTunes song", wrote PC Magazine. If you mean MP3 files, then sure — not even Maxster would run on this machine. The MP3 codec was not developed until the 1990s, well after the Apple-1's debut in 1976. But to consider "song" and "MP3" to be analogous is narrow-minded. I bet the Apple-1 could beep a mean rendition of "Turkey in the Straw". Other functions within its ability are also being misgauged; "this setup 'could barely power a game of Pong'", quoted CNN. I didn't realize Pong required more than 8K of RAM? But both comparisons miss the point. To say that the modern consequence of the Apple-1 is a digital Walkman casts Steve Wozniak's invention as more of a quaint novelty than the technological revolution it was.

For my money, I'd rather buy a Replica I. This Apple-1 clone comes as either a kit ($149) or preassembled ($199) from Vince Briel, expert hardware developer. As related in the documentary Welcome to Macintosh, Briel created the clone with a unique look and even some additional features, so that it would not be confused for (or passed off as) an original Apple-1 (though Mike Willegal seems to be working on a more authentic replica). I built my own Replica I at KansasFest 2009 and had a blast, though my manufacture was not without its flaws (which some Computerworld readers have accused me of staging!). Due to the lack of a monitor, I've not used the Apple-1 in the 16 months since I built it, which I feel better about for having paid $149 than $240,450.

It's unfortunate that all this attention has been focused more on the Apple-1 has a historical artifact than on the vibrant and modern retrocomputing scene. Nonetheless, it'll be interesting to see where the Apple-1 goes. There's already one in the Smithsonian Institute, but another museum might benefit from its own. Does the Computer History Museum have one? How about the Louvre? Surely we can all agree the Apple-1 is a work of art!

Watch this blog for the exciting conclusion to this fast-breaking news story.